Baguio moves to become mining free by next year
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - November 22, 2019 - 12:00am

BAGUIO CITY , Philippines – The Summer Capital of the Philippines will soon be a mining-free area after the local government started its crackdown on small pocket mines amid the continued danger it poses to one of the country’s top tourist spots.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said he has begun to shut down small-scale mining operations in the area as mountains are getting severely degraded, making slopes very unstable.

On the sidelines of the 66th Annual National Mine Safety Environment Conference organized by the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association, Magalong said about 20 pocket mines had already been closed since September.

“Hopefully (we can finish) by the first semester of next year. Small scale miners are very sneaky, we really need to go to them because they are very good at hiding,” Magalong told reporters Thursday.

“Every now and then, we still get reports that some are starting to mine again, like in Kennon Road, in Atok Trail, the area near PMA (Philippine Military Academy). These are the areas that we are looking at,” he said.

Baguio City is really a no-mining zone, but illegal small scale miners are doing operations following the mountainous landscape of the city.

“They do not have consideration on the safety.  They think it’s their means of livelihood, for survival. But we cannot sacrifice safety, which is still our paramount concern,” Magalong said.

The closure of pocket mines is not expected to affect the local economy of Baguio.

“Small scale miners are not paying taxes. It’s just really a matter of survival for them considering prices of gold are very unstable,” he said.

Baguio City also closed the famous Kennon Road because of the instability of the slopes, which may cause accidents.

“We actually learned that some of the slopes there were caused by illegal mining that’s why it’s unstable. How many more slopes are potential danger zones? There are still a lot,” Magalong said.

“Secondly, it’s very dangerous because there is no any means of restoration, once they bore holes in the mountains, they are no longer responsible [in fixing that],” he said.

Unlike underground mines which can be closed after mining, pocket mines are normally left behind once minerals have been exhausted. This may result in the entry of rainwater which often leads to landslides.

While small miners are poised to lose their livelihoods, the government is offering alternative livelihood programs for them.

“We are giving them the opportunity to shift to rice and vegetable farming. They can also join our cooperatives in hog raising,” he said.

BENJAMIN MAGALONG
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